‘Glass’ versus ‘Steel’
Super Bowl Sunday 2012
The steel finally surfaced showing his colors. The ‘glass‘, was flexed deep into the butt section arcing like a rainbow towards the fish. With a big push of his wide tail and a twist, he turned and dove deep. The Alpha II reel quickly but quietly let out line. Tightly gripping the cork handle I was able to feel the force of the fish pulling and the resistance of the reel drag as the spool spun.
It looked to be a good weekend for steelhead fishing. The mild winter thus far made for unfrozen water in February. I got some inside info that the water conditions should be good for a Sunday outing. I made a call to a friend up in North East about meeting for some steelhead fishing.
I met Deetz at the fast food parking lot about 9:00am and we discussed where we wanted to fish. Being from North East PA. and a big time steelhead fisherman, he suggested venturing up creek away from any crowds should there happen to be some later on.
After parking along the grape field we over dressed for the coldness of the morning. I decided on fishing with my Shakespeare 8 wt. Wonderod for this steelhead fishing expedition. I attached my new 7/8 Allen Alpha II fly reel, loaded with DT7F line, to give it a work out and see how it handles the big fish in the cold temperature.
Crossing the road, into the vineyards, without the creek in sight, we headed through the woods for the up creek journey. With Deetz wearing a chest pack and a small day pack on his back and I with a loaded sling pack, I’m sure we looked as if we were making this an all day fishing excursion. He carried his disassembled noodle rod and I carried the assembled 8' 6" Fiberglass rod which tip-wiggled with each step. After making our way across the field we entered the woods and headed towards the creek. I felt like I was back in the Alleghany National Forest. We were away from any interstate noise or local roadways. No trains, no barking dogs and no automobiles.
The creek water cascaded over shale shelves in shallow sections and emptied into plunge pools of deeper water. The sediment, from the moving water over loose shale, made for a grayish cast of the top section of water where as the creek bed was dark in the deeper pools. Steep cliffs alternated on each side of the creek as we continued to walk upstream. To avoid these impassable cliffs we crossed the creek in various safer shallower areas. Long icicles hung from shelves on the shaded sides of the cliffs. Now and again water appeared between layers of shale and fell like streamers into the water below. Occasionally loose shale and pebbles fell skimming the cliff sides, as they dropped, and noisily splashed into the water. The scenery was magnificent through my eyes and any trout, nature loving, fishermen’s dreams.
Deetz led us right to a nice pod of steelhead right off the bat to begin our steelhead fishing. With my first roll cast of my streamer I forgot about my natural surroundings and concentrated on my fishing ability. I started off with a light colored streamer under an indicator being so late in the season and cold conditions. The fish would be, no doubt, in a lethargic state and not want to use much energy chasing a stripped in streamer. During these colder conditions the fish will hold tight usually and wait for food to come to them. Deetz on the other hand would drift home made egg sacks under his indicator. I never fished with a noodle rod but it looked interesting watching him flip the bait and indicator out into the stream with ease and accuracy.
Deetz gave me the first dibs on the pod of fish. It took a little more finesse to get the fiberglass rod to roll cast the weighted leader, indicator and streamer but after a short while I got used to it and managed without too many problems. After a few minutes without success I let Deetz give it a try. It took a little longer than what we expected but he did hook up and landed the first fish of the day. Unexpectedly the fish fight was a good one and not the log tugging, slow fight one would expect late in the season.
My first hook-up came within a few submerged branches. The steelhead were stationed beneath and a little out from a fallen tree. Foolish me, after the hook up, I tried bringing the fish over the submerged limbs and continuing to fight with him near the hazards. After a good scrap mid current he forced his way back towards the underwater branches. I tried to keep him from tangling up and ended up breaking off in the process. The next hook up, and after a little advice by Deetz, I turned the fish downstream away from the tangles. The steelhead fought satisfactory and I landed him successfully.
Deetz put us on good pods of steelhead throughout the day. It wasn’t easy hooking up though. It took patients watching the indicator drift with a good flow of current from upstream and than slowly watch it drift in the slower deep pools across and downstream. We could see the steelhead at times as our offering entered such pods. How anxious we were in hoping to hook up within the first few drifts through. More often than not the fish wouldn’t take and we’d lose interest and move on looking for more responsive fish.We did have some good fighting action throughout the day of course. Deetz had a young fresh looking steelhead give him a good runaround fight that was fun to witness. One healthy hen gave me a long lasting battle which gave both the Wonderod and Alpha II reel a good work out. She was the only fish that took the white Zonker I had tied on for the time being. She fought well using her weight and energy in the slow current pool. It took a couple of close shoreline sprawls before she gave up and let me handle her so I could unhook the streamer and release her.
Before we knew it, it was after 2:00pm. We decided to fish our way down creek to finish up the day. I found no steelhead holding in the shallow runs. Near the cliff walls and some semi-deep sections I’d adjust my streamer depth, below my indicator, and cast out into these sections hoping to connect with an unseen steelhead. It wasn’t until I got down the creek some that I got my last real good fight. Drifting my indicator, through a slow riffle that entered the mouth of a deep pool, the indicator slowly dipped down beneath the surface water. It was almost as if my streamer had caught on the creek bed. The water was dark so I couldn’t see beneath nor know its depth. I lifted the rod as if setting the hook and the resistance moved, arcing the rod shaft with a weighty pull. If you ever dislodged a weighty snag and the undercurrent started to take it downstream, this is what it felt like. The pulling turned direction and pulled across the current and I knew then this wasn’t any snag I’ve come to know about. “Fish on!”
He stayed deep and I thought maybe it was a brown trout. I seen his dark body rise occasionally within sight below but not clear enough to distinguish. It was a tug fest at first with long pulls that I had to let him take line as the ‘glass’ rod arced strenuously from the force. The Alpha II reel unspooled line on these long runs but also brought in line quickly, when the steelhead swam back up creek, on its large arbor spool. I probably kept the rod tip up, at least tried too, more than I should have as I was anxious to get him to the surface for a better look see. Just out from me he did just that before taking to the quicker current that entered the deeper pool.
I got a look at his long dark body and concluded I was battling with a wise old male. I wanted to land this fish badly and decided not to force the issue unless I was sure of no undue pressure. It wasn’t long before Deetz showed up, from up stream, and we both watched the big ‘steel’ fight the ‘glass’ rod in the riffling current. I’d get him pulled out of the faster current occasionally but nearer to shore he’d find enough energy to turn and force his way back into the current. After a fun fought battle I got him to the shallow water near the bank. While splashing around he was able to break the streamer away from the tippet. I was close enough by than to grab him and lift him to shore.
After that exciting battle we moved right along down creek. At the last fishing hole of the day, before calling it quits, I hooked and landed two nice sized steelhead. Deetz had a few missed opportunities as his #18 hook failed to connect solidly in the fish’s mouth. I lost my final fish with a hook set that raised the fish from the depth but somehow he came undone on his head turning retreat.
After the long walk back to the vehicles I was pretty much tuckered out. After changing out of fishing gear we bid our farewells and Deetz headed for home. I, on the other hand, had one more excursion to pursue before heading back to my home.
Being on the East side of Erie I couldn’t pass up visiting one of the wineries. After a few samples of wine, and buying a couple bottles for myself, I was back on the road again heading south. By now I was in the mood to relax and mellow out. With the sight of the orange glow, of the setting sun, below the western horizon, I lit up a Don Tomas Maduro Clasico and tuned the radio to listen to some smooth Jazz.
Another good day on the water!
One of Deetz steelhead caught on an egg sack